I’m probably showing my age, but I remember the days of the TV test card. It featured a girl playing Noughts and Crosses surrounded by an assortment of soft toys. People used to sit and watch the test card while they waited for programmes to start. It beat watching paint dry, but only marginally. Now we have countless TV channels broadcasting 24/7. Schedules have been made more or less redundant by various catch up services. ‘Total TV’ means you can pretty much avoid being alone with your own thoughts.
Then there’s mobile phones. Another device that was meant to be our servant, but ended up gaining mastery over us. A recent report suggested we switch off our phones after 10pm. Some users are so addicted to the things that they can’t get through the night without checking for emails, or glancing at Facebook. Smart phone induced sleep deprivation is making people depressed.
We have become over-stimulated by the multi-media delights of the modern world. It’s difficult to switch off. Yes, we have leisure time, but leisure is different to rest. The American novelist Marilynne Robinson reflected, “Leisure…is highly commercialised. But leisure is seldom more than a bit of time ransomed from habitual stress.” An occasional day out an amusement park is quite different to having a regular rhythm of work and rest built into our lives.
I wonder whether the craving for constant stimulation is an attempt to fill an aching void in our lives. A void that technology and leisure can never satisfy. The great Christian thinker Augustine of Hippo confessed to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’. Finding this rest is not a matter of frantically trying to please God by our own efforts. Jesus said, “Come to me all who labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
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